By Josh Raab
June 30, 2017

Shooting fireworks can be tricky. The shots have to be premeditated, and even when successful, they can be difficult to distinguish from other fireworks images.

TIME selected five photographers who use creative approaches to make their images stand out from the rest.


Focus Pulling Fireworks

David Johnson created a slight variation on traditional fireworks images. By focusing the image during the exposure he creates a tentacle-like effect. To take the image he recommends the following steps:

  1. Prepare: when you hear/see a firework shooting into the air, try as hard as you can to predict where it will explode.
  2. Begin the exposure shortly before you predict the explosion. Start OUT OF FOCUS
  3. When the fireworks explode, quickly refocus your lens throughout the explosion until you reach the tack-sharp focal point, where the fireworks will be in focus.
  4. Once the perfect focus is achieved, END THE EXPOSURE by releasing the shutter button (bulb mode)

Johnson also recommends using a neutral density filter to avoid over exposing the fireworks. He also points out that a f/8 aperture will create thin tentacles (like in the image above) while a f/2.8 aperture will create thicker ones.


The Faces of Fireworks

Ed Heaton

Photographer Ed Heaton turned his camera away from the fireworks and instead chose to focus on his young son. “I had just moved to Virginia and being a single dad is hard, but we try to make the best of every day that we have together,” he said. “It turned out that we got the most perfect parking spot to watch the fireworks and it all came together. I positioned myself right against the side of the truck and took a shot every time I heard a boom. I took the best 12 and made a collage. It’s one of my favorite photos.”


Multiple Fireworks in One Image

Chad Graves

Photographer Chad Graves took a long exposure image of a fireworks show. He left the shutter on the camera open for 15 seconds, allowing the image to fill with fireworks.

To avoid overexposing the image he stood away from light sources on the ground and used a small aperture of f/16, letting very little light into the sensor.


Indoor Fireworks

Maciek Jasik

We can’t condone firing off fireworks inside of buildings but, here, the results look fantastic. Photographer Maciek Jasik shot off fireworks in abandoned buildings to illuminate otherwise dark and decrepit spaces.


The Quirky Approach

Not all approaches have to be serious. Noah Kalina, who always has an endearing sense of humor, did short videos of fireworks in the middle of the woods. The result is an intelligent juxtaposition between the wild and the manufactured.

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